Monthly Archives: December 2013

Facebook – A Little Creepy and Intrusive

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Last weekend my husband and I drove around to the local furniture stores looking at headboards and electric fireplaces. When we couldn’t find what we wanted, we went online and looked around.

I came across a furniture site I’d never seen before, and they had the perfect headboard. Unfortunately, they didn’t have it in king size. As for the electric fireplaces, we couldn’t find exactly what we were looking for.

We aren’t really in a hurry to buy either, even if we find what we love – it was only a bit of window shopping.

When I logged into Facebook on Monday, I was surprised to find that obscure online furniture store – the one with the headboard I liked – on my Facebook news feed. And no, I did not visit the site’s Facebook page, nor did I click on any “like.”

My husband tells me he experienced the same thing on his computer, where electric fireplaces populated his Facebook ads.

We recently bought a new double oven range, and before the purchase I did a little online price comparison. Since then, a double rage oven has been a regular fixture on the Facebook sponsored ads. I just peeked, and it seems that obscure furniture site is now the ad above the range.

How does this make me feel? Rather creepy.

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Delicious Sugarless Fudge…

Fudge

Delicious Sugarless Fudge? Not this year, if ever.

This time each year I start thinking of chocolate fudge. Not just any chocolate fudge, but the kind my dad used to make. It is from a vintage candy recipe that inspired his hot fudge topping – the one I use in my fictional romance, Sugar Rush, written under my Anna J. McIntyre pen name.

After playing with the recipe over the last few days, trying to make a low-cal version, I realize Sugar Rush was a good name for a book featuring the hot fudge, since sugar plays such a critical role in the recipe.

Unlike some fudge recipes that call for corn starch, this one uses just a few basic ingredients: sugar, milk, butter, unsweetened chocolate squares, vanilla and salt.

It’s possible to swap around a few ingredients and still come up with a good fudge – such as low fat milk for whole milk, cocoa for chocolate squares and margarine for butter. But whatever you do, forget about swapping sugar for a sugar substitute.

I tried both Splenda and Stevia to make the fudge, and while they might do okay when baking – they didn’t cut it in the fudge recipe.

First, the recipe calls for letting the mixture come to a boil on the stove, and then without stirring, allowing it to reach 234º to 238º. Unfortunately, before they reach the necessary temperature, a significant portion of the mixture burns to the bottom of the pan.

Even if you are able to scrape the remaining fudge from the pan and onto a buttered plate – the aftertaste will knock you over.

I finally broke down and made a batch with sugar – just to quench my annual fudge craving. My next batch of fudge will have to wait until next Christmas, if I’m to continue avoiding sugar.

Happy holiday cooking!

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Love doesn’t have to hurt.

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I’m not big on censorship. But there is one book on Amazon I would love to see removed. It ‘s To Train Up a Child – a book that proclaims to be Christian based and advocates beating very small children with the sole purpose of breaking their spirits and bringing them into total compliance. One of the authors even boasts about repeatedly hitting a 10-month old child for not playing with something she wanted him to play with. Children have died after their parents followed this barbaric parenting manual.

One of my friends tells of a church member who regularly gives this book as a shower gift. It isn’t given as a perverse gag gift, but a sincere gesture in support of this parenting model.

Meanwhile on Facebook, I am constantly inundated by reposts that brag of being spanked as a child, and how the posters credit the spankings for them turning out as productive and respectful members of society.

I’ve nothing against an occasional swat on the bottom, depending on the circumstance. But spanking did not play a significant role in my upbringing – nor in the raising of our children. Considering how our children – now adults – turned out, I don’t believe sparing the rod turned them into lazy, non-productive, disrespectful citizens. In fact, I can proudly boast both are extremely hard working, and had their first job by age twelve. They are both doing well, and make me proud every day.

As for my parents sparing the rod, I don’t think I turned out so bad either. I’ve been married to the same man for over 37 years, and my husband and I are taking care of our mothers – both of whom are 85 years old – who live with us. If that isn’t a sign of respect, I don’t know what is.  I asked my husband if he was spanked much as a child and he tells me he doesn’t recall ever being spanked.

I’m  not saying we or my parents never spanked –  yet it was rare and never more than a couple swats on the bottom. I really don’t think those few swats taught any valuable lessons to me or my children. The valuable lessons I learned from my parents were by the examples they set.

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Vanilla Beans & Mint Leaves

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Considering the time needed to kitchen test recipes, re-write the previous book and add new recipes,  I don’t see Recipe Traditions, A New Generation out in time for Christmas 2013. Plus, I keep taking these kitchen side trips.

When placing my Bountiful Basket order for this past Saturday, I ordered the tropical pack, which included fresh mint and two vanilla beans. I knew what I wanted to do with the vanilla beans – make homemade vanilla extract, but I hadn’t considered the mint’s use until it arrived. I figured, why not make mint extract?

Since we wanted to stock our bar for the holidays anyway, we picked up some vodka and bourbon over the weekend.  Bourbon to make vanilla extract and vodka for the mint extract. What’s left over – to help stock our bar.

After cleaning and drying the mint, I separated the leaves from the stems, smashed them a bit before adding them to the jar and covering with vodka.  It won’t be ready for Christmas, so I won’t be adding homemade mint extract to the hot chocolate over the holidays.

With my two vanilla beans, I added not quite half a cup of bourbon. Like the mint extract, it won’t be ready in time for Christmas.  But this morning, I went to shake the jars, and noticed the vanilla beans poking out of the bourbon, so  I fished out the beans, cut them in half, and added them back to the jar.

My fingers, now soaked with the scent of vanilla bourbon, smell wonderful! I was so tempted to reopen the jar and add a splash of the flavored bourbon to my coffee.  I resisted, because that would be so wrong.

Or, would it?

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In time for Christmas!

WrappedHavasu

SAVE $5 

Save this holiday shopping season and take advantage of my $5 OFF coupon for each purchase of Havasu Palms, A Hostile Takeover (in paperback.)

For each paperback edition of the book you purchase, save $5 — through December 2013.

To order, click here. To save $5, remember to insert the coupon code: 7ZB55AP2 for each book ordered.

 

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Amazon Drone – Jeff Bezos’ London Bridge

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When the developer and founder of Lake Havasu City, Arizona – Robert McCulloch – wanted to draw attention to the project in 1968, he made an outrageous purchase. He bought the London Bridge – dismantled it and hauled it to the fledgling Arizona community, where it stands today.

It wasn’t as if we needed a bridge back then. Sure, Lake Havasu City is located on a lake, but the island where the bridge takes visitors, was once a peninsula, with a perfectly good road, leading on and off the mainland. McCulloch had to dredge around the peninsula, to transform it into an island. After all, if you are going to haul a hundred and thirty plus years old bridge across several  oceans and through the Panama Canal, the bridge would look pretty silly sitting in the middle of the desert leading nowhere.

That bridge thing seems to have worked out for McCulloch. While it didn’t get my family to Havasu (we came pre-bridge) – I know of many Havasu residents who were originally lured to the area after hearing of the bridge.

Now we come to Jeff Bezos. Personally, I’m fine with Amazon’s continued success. After all, my primary source of income comes from Amazon book sales under my McIntyre pen name. Although, I find it hard to believe drones are going to be playing a significant role in delivering those books in the future.

Aviation regulations, public outcry, safety concerns – not to mention this mode of delivery is just for those within a ten mile radius – makes one wonder if this news is not so much about a revolutionary new delivery system, destined to put FedEx and UPS outa business – but a clever marketing ploy.

Notice it was unveiled the day before Cyber Monday. Bezons’ announcement, every bit as outrageous as McCullouch’s bridge purchase, has certainly driven attention Amazon’s way.

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